Previously on the Best and Worst of NXT: El Hijo del Fantasma made his WWE debut, Finn Bálor mysteriously disappeared, and Dexter Lumis proved that he’s a pretty good friend when he’s not stalking and murdering people.
If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, you can do that here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for April 29, 2020.
Best: I’m On To You, Dexter Lumis
I don’t think I realized it until I typed them in the same paragraph, but if Finn Bálor mysteriously disappeared and Dexter Lumis happened to be there to step up and take a spot in the main event, Lumis totally abducted Bálor, right? I know they/we want to blame Imperium, but clandestine murders don’t seem to be the modus operandi of a mat-worshipping jumpsuit cult. But a former mental patient with mommy issues? 100%. Bálor’s disappearance and the multiple parking lot kidnappings, there’s too much True Crime happening at NXT to ignore the concurrent rise to prominence of a guy whose gimmick is, “obviously a serial killer.”
Anyway, Lumis gets a victory over Shane Thorne, who is once again not represented by MVP because WWE can’t seem to keep track of what’s happening on what show even when they’re using the same wrestlers and running the same venue every day.
Worst/Best: When You Try To Remember What Day Of The Week It Is In Quarantine
Speaking of Imperium, they accept the fact that Finn Bálor died on the way back to his home planet and attack NXT Kinda Sorta Interim Tag Team Champions Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher. Imperium interrupted a Newlywed Game parody hosted by Byron Saxton to cement themselves as NXT’s biggest babyfaces.
Two things that I feel must be said:
- Timothy Thatcher proves that Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle have a weird, special chemistry you can’t just reproduce by putting somebody else in Dunne’s spot. Even when he’s standing there doing nothing, Pete’s got an on-screen charisma that Thatcher doesn’t have yet. He’s also got a visible intelligence that makes his frustration at Riddle’s antics enjoyable, as opposed to Thatcher, who comes across on TV as the Godless amalgamation of Drew Gulak and Ralphus. No shade to Thatcher, who is great, but he can’t be expected to come in cold and carry Pete goddamn Dunne’s weight in a tag team of accidental best friends.
- There are few things WWE does as hard to watch as Byron Saxton Personality segments. 3:16 Day was bad enough, and now we’ve got him dressing like WCW Mike Awesome and asking Ringkampf members to tell him the craziest place they’ve ever made whoopie? Jesus Christ, guys.
This Week In The Largely Unnecessary Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament
Sorry, copied in the wrong URL there.
There we go. Up first in the Fuck You Jordan Devlin Tournament this week is Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott versus El Hijo del Fantasma, who now looks much, much better in a purple version of his fiercely inferior WWE mask. Can’t have the brother diving around looking like 1996 Billy Zane, I guess. Although now that I said it, I wish they’d give somebody a Cal from Titanic gimmick. Just a rich, entitled asshole who had the worst cruise ever.
Swerve picks up the win here to get on the board, as the NXT1 Classic works better if you keep it competitive. Swerve needs it more right now as he’s still trying to find his footing as a character, and Fantasma’s busy fighting off kidnappers or whatever anyway. I hope nobody from his Afghanistan unit he thought he’d left for dead shows up and ruins his chances of becoming champion. Just a hypothetical.
Then we’ve got Drake Maverick vs. Tony Nese. My feelings are best described with the following GIF:
On one hand, the match was a lot of fun and Drake Maverick is excellent as a determined underdog who’s the smallest, weakest, and most emotionally unstable guy in the room, but is fighting so hard to keep his spot, prove he’s worth it, and provide for his family. Matches like these show why it’s ridiculous to sign a guy like Rockstar Spud and keep him on the bench for almost his entire WWE career, only bringing him out to take virginal hotel room roll-ups in his underwear and piss his pants for the lulz. He was great at doing those things, too, but he probably could’ve used that creative currency on something that didn’t constantly make him look like an incelibate dork.
On the other hand, it’s still super concerning to fire a guy, make him keep working for you during a global pandemic, and write a fictional story about his real life fears of unemployment. And if his release was just a work to build sympathy, it’s super duper concerning to let dozens of people go in real life and keep one of them around on the down low so “isn’t it sad to be fired during the collapse of society” can be a slightly more believable under-card plot.
So, more succinctly, “hooray! … question mark?”
Best: Johnny Gargano Loves His Suddenly Evil Wife
Candice LeRae, empowered by a tube of black lipstick and some lavender hair dye, has two new weapons: Johnny Gargano as her personal ring announcer — she hails from “Calia-fornia,” apparently — and the “Wicked Stepsister,” which she uses to end Kacy Catanzaro’s whole career.
First of all, holy shit. Second of all, I’m so happy Catanzaro is back, both because of her tremendous upside as a performer, and because there might not be another person in the world more prepared to eat that entire move. She’s little, pliable, and more than willing to fall on her face from great heights.
And just to say it, no matter how dumb I thought the blow-off to Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa was, Candice LeRae being taken seriously as an NXT Superstar is a bright, shiny, silver lining. I still think she should be able to operate independently of Johnny, but repurposing him as a corrupted Ricardo Rodriguez in love is pretty funny.
Speaking Of Ending Whole Careers
Charlotte Flair wins her first defense of her second NXT Women’s Championship, once again defeating Mia Yim in a rematch “five years in the making.” The first Flair vs. Yim match ended in 50 seconds, so this competitive 10-minute version is much better. Yim has evolved, sure, but it’s especially fun to go back and watch 2014 Charlotte Flair, who looks like a completely different wrestler. It’s like comparing Ramblin’ Ricky Rhodes to the Nature Boy.
Charlotte’s return to NXT is stressful in the same way John Cena or Brock Lesnar matches are where you can see that they’re very good at what they do, but you get in your head about WWE’s decision making process and everything starts feeling less like a wrestler winning a wrestling match and more like a corporate mandate. That can play in a character’s favor, though, as Cena and Lesnar (and pre-Crisis Roman Reigns) matches always cause a lot of conversation, for better or worse. I say this because Charlotte’s facing Io Shirai next week, and I really don’t want that to end like I think it will.
Also On This Episode
Dominik Dijakovic astutely points out that the establishment Johnny Gargano wants to revolt against “put him in about 46,000 straight TakeOvers,” and vows to (and I’m paraphrasing here) pick him up over his head and knee him in the eyeballs. Next week’s show will feature Dijak vs. John Wrestling, Finn Bálor returning from the trunk of Dexter Lumis’ car to address whatever happened, the formal debut of Karrion Kross and Scarlett Bordeaux (whose show is made up of that smoke the Street Profits have been asking for), and Bad Moonsault defending the NXT Women’s Championship against Best Moonsault. Also, an NXT Championship match that will set fire to comments sections and definitely not make everything worse.
Best: Keith Lee Throws A Priest
Finally this week we’ve got the North American Championship match between Keith Lee and Damian Priest. Between this coming a week before a stacked card and the NAC triple threat that happened a week before the USA Network version of “TakeOver,” the North American Championship has become a real “night one” main-eventer.
Regardless, here’s Keith Lee throwing a 6-foot-5, 250+ pound man from the “crowd” onto the apron like a loose sack of crap:
I want to see Keith Lee wrestle Drake Maverick, just to see how far he could throw him. I bet he could hit the lights with a Spirit Bomb. Lee wins this one by fending off a shot from Priest’s night stick — when Lee caught it Priest really could’ve just let go with one hand and smashed him in the face with the stick with the other, but it’s a good visual — and wins with a pair of “Spirit Bombs” that are just normal powerbombs. I don’t think it’s a Spirit Bomb unless you Last Ride them up, sit out, and bounce the motherfucker.
As a reminder, Keith Lee should remain North American Champion forever, or until he decides he should be NXT Champion proper, whichever comes first.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Dave M J
So why should I boo Johnny Gargano basically being a teenage girl watching a boy band when Candice is murdering ladies again?
Sindel variant Candice reminds me of when MC Hammer started dressing as a gangsta rapper
Looks like Swerve hit Fantasma with a…
*Puts sunglasses on*
Shane Thorne vs Dexter Lumis winner gets to be thrown off a building in a Schwarzenegger movie
*Triple H talks to NXT locker room before the show*
Triple H: “Hey guys, I know these are hard times going on here but I just want to make sure you all stay safe and healthy and if there is anything you are concerned about let me know.”
Tony Nese: “Any idea about these luchadors randomly abducting people and then never hearing back from where they went?”
Triple H: “As I said it is surreal times, now if you excuse me I have to help put a ring on top of the WWE headquarters.”
“tope from the Gates of Hell!” – Mauro with the nod to LU, and that’s whats I appreciates abouts him
It’s only a matter of time before Candace, Dakota, and Raquel form a mean girl stable.
Who does Drake Maverick think he is? Sarah Logan?
I don’t ever want to hear Dexter Lumis speak. He should be a silent monster for his entire career
Thanks Mia. At least someone in Florida knows how to wear a face covering.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of NXT. We’re not sure you ever actually read this part or do what we ask (or if you even scroll down through the top 10 comments of the week), but hey, it would really help us if you commented down below and shared the column if you liked or laughed at anything. The world’s tough, and that makes this kind of thing a lot easier.
Join us here next week for [vaguely gestures].